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"A penny for your thoughts"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

American singer "Jero" takes Japan by storm with a mix of Japanese folk

Released in Japan on February 20, 2008. It entered the Oricon charts at number 4

Jerome White Jr's debut single Umiyuki (pron: Oo-Me-You-Key), which means Ocean Snow. Written by famous songwriter Yasushi Akimoto and musician Ryudo Uzaki, the song is about a person contemplating suicide because of unrequited love. "The entry will apparently be the highest ranking Japanese folk and blues single debut ever", and somewhere I saw something about one of his singles hitting 3.5 million sales. Twenty-six year old Jerome White Jr from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,United States sings in perfect Japanese and with the typical rolling pitches of enka (pronounced "eh-n-kah), , White - also called "Jero" - has burst on to the music scene. Also known as Rome back home in the US,

Enka, which literally means "performing song" is often described as traditional Japanese folk and blues with lyrics similar to theportuguese fado music - mostly emotional

and nostalgic. Enka are slow, mournful and often melodramatic ballads about love, death, loneliness, perseverance and, occasionally, suicide. It is usually wildly popular

amongst the older generation in Japan, until recently had been considered a dying art. With his hip-hop dance moves, baggy trousers and baseball cap, Jero has managed

to create an urban cool version of Enka that appeals to younger fans.To sing enka, you not only have to understand the language fluently, but you need natural talent and

also devotion to the art itself .

Jero, born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, first started learning Japanese from his Japanese grandmother, who moved to the U.S. with her African-American husband

immediately after World War II. Its Jero's grandmother who not only taught him Japanese words, customs but also how to sing enka. In 2003, he graduated from University of

Pittsburgh with a bachelor's degree in information sciences. He then moved to Japan to pursue his dream to become an enka singer. While working as a computer engineer,

Jero attended numerous karaoke competitions and won awards, which eventually caught the eyes of Japanese record executives. Enka singers,especially, are a dime-a-

dozen and come and go in a flash. So it isn't an easy task to stay at the top of the charts in Japan.

"He has reawakened Japanese to the beauty of enka music and the Japanese language -- and the soul that lies in Japanese that we had forgotten," said 34-year-old housewife Yumi Kuroda, who was singing along at Jero's performance and watching him rapturously. "The snow that falls from the frozen sky leaves without a trace when it hits the waves. If my love for you doesn't reach you, shall I throw myself (into the ocean)?" Jero croons.
Jero’s Official Website (Victor Records):

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